An influential Philadelphia-based tea party organization Monday endorsed western Pennsylvania businessman Tom Smith in the Republican primary, saying he epitomized the movement’s ideal of a smaller government.
“Among the four conservatives in the race, Tom Smith appears to be the one candidate who can unite the various factions in the Republican Party while still appealing to Reagan Democrats and independents,” said Don Adams, president of the Independence Hall Tea Party PAC. He praised Smith’s “wholesome, down-to-earth sincerity.”
Smith, a former coal company owner from Armstrong County, is a longtime donor to conservative causes, although he also has been a Democratic committeeman there. Smith has been active in the tea party movement that arose in 2009 in protest of President Obama’s stimulus program and his health-care plan.
Adams said that defeating Sen. Bob Casey (D.,Pa.) is a “major priority” for the tri-state PAC, which is involved in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Six Republicans are seeking the nomination to take on Casey in the April 24 primary; polls have shown no clear frontrunner, and indicated that GOP voters do not know many of the candidates well.
The state GOP has endorsed Steve Welch, a venture capitalist from Chester County who was for a time a registered Democrat who raised money for former Rep. Joe Sestak (D.,Pa.) and has said he voted for Obama in the 2008 primary.
Also running are former state Rep. Sam Rohrer, a favorite of conservatives who ran in the 2010 gubernatorial primary; Harrisburg lawyer Marc Scaringi; and David Christian, a veterans activist from Bucks County.
A Franklin & Marshall College poll conducted late last month showed more than four in five GOP primary voters are undecided. Smith led with nine percent.